State of the Church – Bishop: “Embody the Love of Christ”

By John Langenstein

Bishop Sandra Steiner Ball delivered the 2024 State of the Church Address at the Thursday evening session of Annual Conference.

Beginning with a survey of the work and struggles the church has faced across her 12-year tenure as bishop, she highlighted how God has walked alongside the people of God to see them through their hardships.

“Thank you, God, for meeting us, abiding with us on this journey of life and faith,” she prayed.

Moving to General Conference, the bishop highlighted the spirit of love and respect shared between delegates. Even contentious matters were handled with kindness, and the atmosphere and consensus between delegates made it clear that “Jesus was present,” Steiner Ball said.

The bishop said she believes this spirit can also define the West Virginia Conference.

Bishop Sandra Steiner Ball

“We are called to continue to embody the love of Christ in our interactions with one another and in the ways we engage in ministry together,” she said. “Our unity is in Christ. … It is more important than ever to engage in respectful dialogue, compassionate listening, and prayerful practice with one another.”

Beyond General Conference, the bishop highlighted the success of conference missions. The Church has seen baptisms, international episcopal visits, anniversaries, and service projects. No matter where the conference has conducted its work, it has seen the Spirit working alongside it.

As budgets and ministries are reworked, the bishop sees the church embodying the old Wesleyan challenge to “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can.”

“How is it with your soul in this season,” Steiner Ball asked, referencing another Wesleyan adage.

She called the conference to reflect on their mission, ministries, and how they might reach their neighbors. Going into the world the church should “purposefully meet and interact with people others want to avoid,” she said. Though challenging, allowing God to move through the Church in this way will bring growth and transformation that can be accomplished only through the work of the Spirit.

Though imperfect, the Church is being perfected, she added.

”We are a work in progress,” she said, calling on the body to “continually focus on, embody, and bear witness to the power of God’s love in Jesus Christ.” If the Conference lives into this transformative power, the bishop is confident, “God will rejoice in the state of God’s Church here in the West Virginia Conference.”

Watch the full State of the Church in plenary session 1 at this link.